THE MISSING CHAPTER AT THE GLOBAL SUMMIT
By Thomas L Blair 31 August 2021©
|Climate change crisis is also a racial justice problem.
My contribution to the Environmental Handbook: Action Guide for the UK was a founding document for the newly formed Friends of the Earth. Published in 1971, it was a radical document for its time. “We are not just idealists, but we do have ideas. Our Earth is threatened and needs every friend it has”, I wrote.
But there was one chapter missing in our worthy tome. I’d call it Race, The Environment and Climate Change. We petitioned the then Prime Minister Edward Heath and Peter Walker, Secretary of State for The Environment but didn’t place racial equality at the heart of our climate crisis letter.
But now after decades of political failure another Conservative government must respond to the challenge. Convenor Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma president designate must include race, environment and climate change in the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference strategy in Glasgow 31 Oct-12 Nov 2021.
Relieving threats to disadvantaged local areas
They have a chance to centre racial equity and justice in solutions to the climate crisis in vulnerable local areas as well as world regions.
For example, Black communities are disproportionately located in areas physically vulnerable to climate hazards. In America, Hurricane Katrina highlighted the legacy of unequal flood protection in New Orleans. Where racially biased distribution of government funding resulted in subpar levee protection for Black neighbourhoods. As a result, over 80% of the homes that were lost belonged to Black people and they made up over half of total fatalities.
In Britain, long-standing residential segregation in the worst urban areas makes low-income Black and Asian people vulnerable to climate change. Toxic air, noise pollution, lack of green spaces, ill-health and early death are the tragic consequences.
In response, Mayor Sidiq Khan must use his ambitious Integrated Environment Plan to curb the impacts. His slogan – “Make London greener, cleaner and ready for the future” – must be transformed into positive action for a better race-climate change future.
What do climate and racial justice advocates want and what must Johnson and Sharma do?
As British and global activists descend on Glasgow they are sure to raise the alarm. Britain’s decision-makers have shown a staggering inability to grasp the links between the climate crisis and racial justice. And here’s the thing: It is not only moral indifference; it’s also myopia. Nations must recognise and act to increase the protection of disadvantaged communities against the tragic consequences of climate change.
The Environmental Handbook: Action Guide for the UK. Edited by John Barr (environment journalist), Introduction by Kenneth Allsopp (ecologist). Ballantine/Friends of the Earth 1971
With a Contribution by Dr Thomas L Blair, founding member Friends of the Earth and social and environmental planner at the Polytechnic of Central London.
Our cause “1970s – Your last chance to act to make Britain worth living” attracted some of the biggest names in the campaign. These include Sir Fraser-Darling of the Conservation Foundation and Reith lecturer on Wilderness and Plenty; Professor Paul Ehrlich biological scientist and author of The Population Bomb; Lord Ritchie-Calder, the Conservation Society and author of Common Sense about a Starving World; Professor René Dubos, microbiologist and writer on Science for Man; and Dr Kenneth Mellanby nature conservationist
The official website for current legislation regarding the environmental laws in the UK is legislation.gov.uk
Race and climate reading list
How do race and climate interlink? Why should racial equality be at the heart of the climate movement? If you’re struggling to answer these questions, or you’d simply like to learn more about justice issues, then this reading list is for you.